At the time we began thinking about the spectacle, Brexit had already happened and the American election was nearing its end. Many more perceptive observers than us had anticipated both events, and much has happened in the months since – which have felt like lifetimes – to reinforce the idea that white supremacy, sexism, capitalism, neo-malthusianism and climate change denial are structures and ideas that many are simply unwilling to let go of. But like other ‘progressives’ and people on ‘the Left’, our worldview was defined by the newsfeeds we accepted as gospel, the echo-chambers we uncritically inhabited. Our choice of theme is an attempt to understand how it is that our screens – the multiple, everyday mediums through which we consume the narratives and images that define our cultural climate – produce perceptions, or rather distortions, with the power to change the course of history.
In this issue we focus on the spectacle(s) of protest, prisons and borders. From Indigenous knowledge to internet languages, via videogames and into the unconscious, we hear from satirical cartoonists, activist collectives, historians, poets and fantasy architects on truth, information, performance and power.